Snow Sisters: A sisterhood of skiing in Alaska
SheJumps is giving away a free spot on an all-women’s heli ski trip in Alaska this April (2015). All you have to do is buy a ticket (or ten) for $10 before September 30th. Read below for more information!
“How do you even begin to describe this place?”
This thought runs through my head as I take a deep breath and look down to the valley floor miles away. Nervous laughter surrounds me as Oksana, Korinne, Rhianna and Adrienne scout the line, waiting for the drop order. Korinne, a smiley power- house skier and guide in training drops in, easing into what is first wind-buff and then plentiful powder. We watch, excitement growing on our faces as cold smoke arcs in the air, catching the sun’s rays as it flies.
Korinne scouting the line. PC: Oksana Chekulaeva
Welcome to Snow Sisters, an inaugural gathering of women from across the world who have come to play in the mountains of Haines, AK. I’ll be honest – I’m typically skeptical of most all-women programs. In my opinion, many of these women’s specific events feel watered down, as though we’re not there to learn, ski hard, bike hard, or meet others who push us. Fast forward and I’m standing on a knife edge ridge surrounded by peaks and spines with 5 other women as amped to send the steeps as I am. I wouldn’t exactly call this “watered down”.
Snow Sisters is the brain child of Rhianna Rasmussen, a heli-pilot, ripping skier and mother, and her partner in crime Seandog Brownell of Alaska Heliskiing. Driven by the experiences Rasmussen garnered skiing with female big mountain skiers in the Chilkat Range, she decided to give women a reason to celebrate together. Brownell backed her 110% and with the help of dispatcher Ashley Saupe (a legend in her own right) the program was born.
Arriving in Haines a few days before the camp, I’m greeted by big hugs from strangers who already feel like family. Justin, a photographer from Vail, CO whisks me 33 miles away from the town center to the heliski base. All I can see for miles is towering mountains of opportunity. I’m giddy as we talk about snowpack and weather for the next few days. The base is absolutely buzzing when I arrive, and not just from the helicopter landing in the background. Clients from all over the world are excited by the prospect of meeting the incoming female skiers. I get introduced to Korinne first, go over safety briefing and get settled. As Rhianna and Ashley filter in for introductions, I immediately feel like I’ve known these women my whole life.
Bonding in the bird.
The next few days are spent going over logistics and greeting participants who have come from literally, all over the globe. The roster is impressive – Oksana from Russia, Yenny from Laax, Lucy from Juneau, Lorraine from Canada just to name a few. The first Snow Sisters day in the heli kicks off on a bluebird morning with a heli drop and ski tour planned out in the range. Six of us load up and get dropped off on top of a knife edge ridge that makes us giggle with excitement and a little bit of nervousness. We traverse out to the line, trying to not show how gripped we are. Looking down, Rhianna laughs, “I can’t believe I’m doing this with a bunch of ripping ladies.” Korinne smiles in agreement, “I never thought other girls would want to ski lines like this with me.” The words ring true to so many of us there and we reflect for a moment on truly special this is.
The day is perfection, with four fun filled powder descents, some spicy touring and kick turns, and a sled tow across the river back to the road. I’m exhausted but glowing in new found friendships. I’ve only known these women for a few days but I’m already planning future adventures with them.
That night we are treated with a feast from Rhianna and Ashley in the Red House. We gorge on homemade ceviche, fried black cod tips, potato salad and nachos. A ceiling tile from the local bar, the Pioneer lays across the table for the group to decorate. Seandog’s daughter Neve leads the charge in tutu making. We’ve just finished an intense day in the mountains, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be a little girly, right?
Ceiling tile for the Pioneer.
As we finish our food and fill the rest of our bellies with whiskey chilled by glacial ice, Sian Williams sets up a slideshow. Sian helped create and currently runs the Icefield Discovery camp based by Mt Logan – a glacier camp providing access to one of the most remote areas in the world in the St. Elias Mountains. Each year, Sian and her crew help build and run this camp for ski mountaineering, touring and research parties. In her slideshow, we saw the logistics and beauty of her project. The room was electric at the end of the presentation, inspired by Sian and so many other women.
The days following were always unique. Waking up to blue, everyone would form a heli group to suit the type of adventure they were craving – touring, half day or full on. Or, with Ashley at the helm, we would take snowmachines out to the Natagua glacier. Every day we pushed each other, not only in big terrain but to have fun with it. Down days led to food re-supplies, beacon drills or exploring the local area. Each night we spent time together, eating some of the best homemade food imaginable and bonding over our time in the snow as Juneau local Terry Tibbitt serenaded us with her guitar. We welcomed and got treated to the premiere of the European all female ski movie ‘Shades of Winter’ as the girls showed up to film for year two in Haines. Not only did these athletes send it, but they were also some of the most down to earth women I’ve ever met. It was incredible to laugh about life over a beer one night and see them crush some of the steepest spines I’ve ever witnessed the next morning.
Ten days in Haines went by much much too fast, and with a heavy heart I looked back towards Jackson, WY – my home. When I think about my time here I can honestly say although I was awed and inspired by the mountains, the true gift was the feeling of family, sisterhood and camaraderie I left with. These women will forever be people I consider my sisters in the mountains; driven by the love of our sport, the outdoors, big mountains and pushing themselves with other women.
SheJumps is giving away a spot on the 2015 Snow Sisters camp. Raffle tickets will be sold through September online and through select regional events. Pick one up for your chance to be part of this amazing trip next year at: http://bit.ly/1jQKe48
For more on the program view the season teaser here: http://bit.ly/RUZymS